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Swing for him

Posted by Gary Martin on January 11, 2007

In Reply to: Swing for him posted by Victoria S Dennis on January 11, 2007

: : : : Where did the phrase "swing for him" orginate.
: : : : Is it to kill him and then swing at the end of a rope or
: : : : swing an arm to punch him.

: : : I don't know where it originated and, for a colloquial phrase like this one, you aren't ever likely to find out. The meaning is well-known though - at least here in the UK - and that's the second of your two suggestions.

: : "Take a swing at him" means try to hit him. "You'll swing for that" means you'll be put to death by hanging.

: I second ESC. As usual, context is all. In a historical context - i.e. when the death penalty still existed in the UK - "swing for him" certainly could mean "be hanged for his sake, or on his account", as for example "I don't care, I'll throttle that so-and-so, even if I swing for him". (VSD)

I wouldn't argue with 'swing for him' being used to mean 'be hanged for his sake', although I've never heard it used that way. It is commonplace to use 'swing for him' to mean 'take a punch at him'. If someone said they were going to swing for me I would be more inclinded to duck than to offer thanks.